10 July 2022

As one rail trail goes off track, Galong's full-steam ahead

| John Thistleton
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A bridge and turntable near Boorowa. Photo: Rail Trails Australia.

As the Upper Lachlan Shire Council suddenly withdrew from a rail-trail project with Goulburn Mulwaree Council, Galong’s full-stream ahead getting their new rail-trail project.

Northwest of Yass and with a population of 240, Galong has stumped up $20,000 for a feasibility study of the proposed 29-kilometre trail to Boorowa. Galong is part of Hilltops Council which also contributed $25,000 to the study.

The Galong-Boorowa railway line opened in 1914 for three services a week. The last train ran in 1987.

Hilltops councillor and grazier Tony Flanery was initially opposed to getting involved in the trail, which runs through his mother Gail Flanery’s property. He changed his mind to become a supporter when he realised the tourist potential.

When Mrs Flanery came to the Galong district from Sydney 50 years ago, Tony said there were two schools in the village, two general stores, a farm supply store, a bank and a butcher.

“Now there is only a rubbish tip there,” Cr Flanery said. “If access to her property is required to help get a bed-and-breakfast going and a few little stores, it is probably the least she can do,” he said.

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The Galong-Boorowa rail trail and others in the Canberra region will be established faster and for less money under a legislative amendment tabled in the NSW Parliament.

Under existing legislation, an Act of Parliament is needed to enable rail trails to operate. This is time-consuming and often puts more financial pressure on councils supporting new work.

Under the amendment before Parliament, the Minister for Regional Transport and Roads could authorise the temporary re-purposing of a railway corridor and removal of tracks on a non-operational line. A council could then lease the rail corridor for 30 years.

Supporting the amendment, the NSW Government’s evaluation of the pilot Tumbarumba-to-Rosewood Rail Trail found its operational impact socially and economically ‘excellent’. The 21 km rail trail began in April 2020 and has increased discretionary spending by 55 per cent, leading to nine new or expanding businesses.

Following the Upper Lachlan Shire backflip, Goulburn rail trail supporters are considering new routes within the Goulburn Mulwaree Local Government area.

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Chair of the Goulburn to Crookwell Rail Trail group Bob Kirk said the NSW Government needs a council-led committee to progress projects.

“I cannot speak for the Council,” he said. “Whether a new option would stack up and get [NSW Government] funding to proceed needs more work.”

Cr Kirk said supporters are reconsidering a way forward. In the meantime, costs have blown out in the construction industry, so economic estimates also have to be reassessed.

“The earlier $16 million estimate could blow out to $25 million and change the overall economic assessment,” he said.

Goulburn Chamber of Commerce president Darrell Weekes says a rail trail should proceed within the Goulburn Mulwaree LGA.

“That does open up other issues, but there is no reason we cannot run it alongside existing roads,” he said. “Think about going out to Woodhouselee and turning left past Kingsdale Winery and then heading out to Parkesbourne, for instance, and coming back,” he said.

A bridge structure on the Goulburn-Crookwell branch line, near Graywood Siding. Photo: Ian Anderson.

On the old branch line, Ian Anderson’s property ‘Graywood Siding’ – 25 kilometres north of Goulburn in the Woodhouselee area – sits on the edge of the Upper Lachlan Shire boundary with Goulburn Mulwaree.

Moving there in 2015 to enjoy the countryside with grandchildren in retirement, Ian discovered the railway line after buying their property, then found his wife’s grandfather had been station master at Roslyn, another stop along the old line.

“Our desire is to keep the history of this railway line alive,” Ian said. “I researched and found the Gray brothers built the siding (on his property) in 1907, five years after the line was opened.”

Ian said the brothers’ work and entrepreneurial spirit were commended at the time because they recognised the benefit of the railway line for business opportunities.

“Now the trains don’t run, but there is still the benefit of that corridor, I think, and opportunity to keep the history alive,” he said.

Galong rail trail supporters are showing a similar entrepreneurial flair today as the Gray brothers did all those years ago.

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